When Tim Matsui was awarded first prizes in World Press Photo Award and Pictures of the Year International, for The Long Night, the feature length film he created with MediaStorm and made possible with the support of The Alexia Foundation, he was not quite satisfied. He was not ready to celebrate.
Tim’s tenacity and perseverance to effect change is truly commendable… he embodies everything that Alexia stands for
“I am deeply honored for the recognition by the photojournalism community, but the awards are about my work and that work is nothing until it makes a difference for the people whose struggle I’ve witnessed,” said Tim in an essay he wrote in Vantage in response to those awards. He was compelled to do more.
Since the completion of the film, Tim has worked tirelessly to get his film and other visual assets he collected regarding commercial sex exploitation in front of audiences and, particularly, before stakeholders and change makers so that his work can have the largest impact possible.
“Tim’s tenacity and perseverance to effect change is truly commendable. To shoot a story and move on to the next one letting the import of the issue languish in obscurity, helping no one, is no longer acceptable for a thinking, caring, engaged visual journalist,” says Aphrodite Tsairis. “Tim Matsui embodies everything that Alexia stands for.”
In his most recent essay for Vantage, Matsui discusses the work he has been doing and exhorts his fellow visual journalists to form partnerships and work with policy makers to harness the power of their work and their research. He has hosted screenings of the film and continues to host screenings across the United States (Upcoming screening are in Austin, Tx, Schenectady, NY, Denver, CO, the Seattle Area and elsewhere. Look here for screenings in your area). He has developed materials and strategies for others to use the film to inform and engage communities, including launching a Kickstarter appeal to make DVD’s available to those who need them for screenings.
On Feb. 25, 2016, at the invitation of Congressman Reichert of Washington State and Congressman Tony Cardenas of California, Matsui traveled to Washington, D.C. to brief congressional staff on how the King County (Seattle) model for addressing commercial sexual exploitation could become a national model.
Perhaps among Matsui’s most important work has been in driving the dialog on commercial sexual exploitation in King’s County, Washington, where the film was shot. He has engaged with all levels of government and law enforcement.The first local screening of The Long Night was held for most than 80 local law enforcement, mayors, judges, prosecutors, FBI and HSI. It made detectives cry and spurred police chiefs to shake his hand.
He has made introductions, negotiated touchy politics and even helped write a statement on commercial sexual exploitation. Clips from his film are helping King County government develop strategic plans, engaging all of the more than 13,000 country employees to help address circumstances contributing to commercial sexual exploitation.
His collaboration with A Fourth Act and the use of the mobile web application Harvis in screenings of edited raw content has helped further this work tremendously. This stage of the project was undertaken with the help of The Fledging Fund, which supports documentary impact campaigns.
Last month, Tim screened clips he had created with A Fourth Act for a workshop of King County cross-departmental stakeholders. They were shown the clips and asked to record how they responded emotionally to them using Harvis. “Mini governments” were formed of attendees. The responses they had logged on Harvis facilitated their interactions as they discussed the issues and solutions.
The employees wanted to act but the mandate had to come from the top. The father of a new daughter, King County Executive Dow Constantine, emotionally promised to support their efforts.
Change is being implemented in King County. Ripples are being felt across the country. Matsui’s film is now an engagement tool being used to instigate change. Still, he continues to work to get his film before the public, continues to work to make an impact and that impact continues to grow. He calls on others to do the same with their own work.
“Let’s make a difference,” Matsui urges his fellow visual journalists. “Let’s serve audiences and subjects by carrying stories further with existing and emerging tools. Let’s reach out for partnership and make sure our journalistic stories land in the laps of the people who can make positive change.”
If you are interested in joining Matsui in taking action on commercial sex trafficking, there are many ways to get involved. Follow The Long Night on Facebook and Twitter. Share materials from the film and add your own voice. Discuss the issue with your friends, family and local officials. Host a screening. Teach your daughters to have self-esteem and self-worth. Teach your sons how to treat women and girls with respect. Donate money or supplies to a local victim services organization. See more ideas at thelongnightmovie.com.
We, at The Alexia Foundation, are proud to be able to support this incredibly important project, and thrilled to see the change Tim is affecting with it.
Read Tim’s entire account of all of the work that his film has done on Vantage.